Five years ago, Campbell Riverite Tyler Turner wasn’t expecting that one day he’d be in a training camp getting ready to go to the Paralympic Games.
Turner has always been active in action sports – skydiving, surfing and he has been a snowboarder his whole life. Five years ago things changed. Back in 2017, Turner was recovering from a sky diving accident and doctors had to remove his right leg.
“It’s almost five years now,” he said. “Right off the bat I wasn’t super motivated to compete in the Paralympics.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to snowboard, so I thought if I was going to be going to the Paralympics it would have to be in a wheelchair and wheelchair sports, which I really enjoyed and were really fun, but it wasn’t snowboarding.”
Turner was an avid snowboarder before his accident and transitioning to para snowboarding was not as difficult as he thought it could be. He is able to snowboard with the use of prosthetics, and had to relearn how to ride through adapted boards, boots and bindings. Most of Turner’s learning curve was more about learning how to live as an active double amputee.
“It was just a matter of managing the pain and skin problems. Once I was able to learn how to be an active amputee and manage the adversity that comes with that… the snowboarding part I know what to do, I’ve done it my whole life. I just had to adapt it a little bit,” he said.
He has been working with a Comox Valley-based board building company, Kindred Custom Snowboards and Skis, through his journey. Finding adaptations for his gear was important for getting comfortable on the board again, and he’s been working to get onto more standard gear. Another bonus is being able to get new gear on quick turn around when it gets damaged.
“I broke a board in the world cup over the weekend and Evan (Fair from Kindred) was on it the next day,” Turner said. “He put a board together and actually just put it in the mail today. I’ll be able to break it in and ride it here in training before Beijing. You just don’t get that kind of service anywhere.”
“Snowboarding has always been my number one thing,” he said. “It was my job, my career, my passion, it’s been everything for me. Once I realized I was going to be able to snowboard — I had my second leg amputated (in 2018), which gave me the opportunity to snowboard again — it really became a big goal. It’s been the last three years that I’ve been pursuing that.”
At the end of last year’s snowboarding season, Turner started competing on the world cup circuit, and since then he has amassed enough points to make him one of the top athletes in his field. Last week he was awarded the para snowboard cross Crystal Globe, which goes to the top points earner in the season. That puts him in a prime position for the Paralympics, which start in Beijing next month.
“I’m pretty happy with how I’m sitting right now, and I feel really good,” he said. “I’ve had a great season. It was a tough start, but I was able to start putting it all together at the end of the season. I just won a couple of world cups in the last week here and world championships in Norway a few weeks back was a huge one for me. I hope I can just keep the momentum going here into the one that really matters.”
Five years ago, being a world class athlete about to go to his first Paralympic games would not have been on Turner’s mind.
“It’s a wild year… the entire experience is going to be so cool. I’ve never been to China, I’ve never been to the Paralympics, so it’ll be a wild experience,” he said. “I’m going to try to take it all in, enjoy it and not put too much pressure on myself.
“It’s pretty rare. Not the standard path people take.”